Teaching is an incredibly rewarding profession. Although it is a very challenging job at times, most people go into it because they want to do good in the world. Unlike other careers, teachers are rarely ever in it just for the money. However, that doesn’t mean that educators shouldn’t be ambitious.
By moving up the career ladder into high-level positions, teachers can effectuate change in a more significant way. There are also higher salaries to consider; some teachers are happy where they are and they don’t necessarily want to be promoted, while others may want to move on up – and they’ll need a plan to achieve that.
There are a number of career paths that educators can take, but getting there can be difficult. Career progression in education is very different from other sectors, and in many cases, it doesn’t seem fair; often, promotions are given to those that have been working at a school for the longest, even if they are not necessarily the best person for the job. There can be a lot of politics involved, too, as most promotions and appointments are made internally. So, if you don’t get on particularly well with the person making the decision, this can stall your career.
Moving around doesn’t always help either. Job hopping between companies is a good way to move up the career ladder quickly in most industries, but in education, it can sometimes work against you. Usually, teachers are expected to take the long path toward career progression if they want to attain leadership roles.
Ultimately, this often means that teachers are unprepared for leadership roles because they haven’t gained the right skills and experience during their career journey. However, the good news is that if you have aspirations for leadership in education, there are ways you can improve your performance – and the following points are some of the key things educators can do to perform better in leadership roles.
If you are not prepared to be patient, teaching may not be the profession for you. Although there are ways to boost your chances of career advancement, you have to accept that the path in education is a long one. There are clear stepping stones that take you from teacher to the head of a department to the principal – and it’s rare that you can skip over them.
It’s easy to get frustrated when you feel like your career is going nowhere, but you need to be patient. If you keep at it, you will reach your goal eventually. However, if you rush into a leadership role before you are ready, you won’t have the necessary experience, and you will be out of your depth.
Create A Plan
Ask any teacher in a leadership position, and they’ll tell you that they didn’t just fall into it by chance. They had a detailed plan for career progression, and you need one of your own.
Start by thinking about what your ultimate end goal is. For some people, that’s becoming the principal of the best school in the area. But for others, it might be about finding roles outside of the school in which they can direct educational policy at a higher level. There are also positions that support schools in ways other than teaching in the classroom – such jobs you may want to consider include:
- Educational policy expert
- Curriculum writer/director
- Coaches/mentors for new teachers
- Educational consultant
These are all positions integral to creating and delivering education without necessarily being in the classroom. Do some research into different roles within the education industry and decide which positions appeal to you the most. Once you have chosen, you can then research what kind of skills and experience are necessary for the job.
When drawing up a career plan, consider how long you are likely to spend in each job before moving on to the next step. This should give you a rough outline for a five to ten-year plan. Finally, break this plan down into smaller steps to make it more manageable.
The purpose of this plan is to determine the skills that you will need in your new leadership role and what steps you need to take to develop them. If you pick up all of the necessary experience along the way, you will be better prepared when you reach the end of your career path.
Invest In Continued Education
Improving your skill set makes you a more attractive candidate, especially if you are pursuing leadership roles. Your teaching experience is obviously very important, but there are other attributes that are necessary as you move up the ladder.
For example, when you first take on a head of department job, you are in charge of a team of people for the first time. Even though you might be amazing at leading a classroom full of children, that doesn’t mean that you are well-suited to management positions.
By investing in continued education, you can gain the skills that you need to thrive in senior roles. You can take an online educational doctorate program to learn about the latest research into educational leadership. You will also develop practical skills that can easily be applied to a wide range of leadership roles within education or even in other industries.
Continued personal development (CPD) in teaching is often lacking, so it is up to educators to manage their own development. Alongside educational doctorate programs, you can look into training courses to help with teaching special needs students, learning new technology that can be implemented in the classroom, and understanding new theories for engaging kids.
By investing in your own education, you can learn new skills and improve your performance when you take on a leadership position – and that is an investment that is utterly priceless in the field of education.
Build Strong Relationships
Education is all about relationships. The relationship that you have with students is naturally the most important, but as you progress into leadership positions, relationships with colleagues become increasingly significant. If you are a department head or even a principal, you need to have a good working relationship with all of the teachers under you. Unfortunately, though, a lot of people don’t know what a good professional relationship looks like.
Being best friends with everybody is not the aim. Equally, you don’t want to rule by fear or force. Ideally, you want people to respect your decisions while also feeling comfortable enough to share their ideas with you or make suggestions for improvement. This is a tough balance to strike, and it takes time to cultivate these relationships. Still, this is something that teachers should focus on throughout their career so when they finally reach a leadership position, those solid foundations already exist.
That said, you must be aware of the way that relationships change once you progress into a higher position. It can be a difficult transition when you suddenly become the boss of somebody that was previously at the same level as you. The natural instinct is to tell that person that nothing will change, but that isn’t the case. Things will change, and it’s important that they do because there needs to be a clear chain of command.
Finding mentors is a crucial part of relationship building, too. When you take on a senior role for the first time, you may feel like you’ve been thrown in at the deep end. But everybody thinks like that and having somebody to guide you helps so much. Reach out to those that are further along your chosen career path and see if you can set up a meeting. They know what it’s like to be in your position, and many people will be willing to help.
Stay Up To Date With Educational Trends
The best leaders are those that are ahead of the curve. In a senior position, it is your job to ensure that students are getting the best possible education, which means that they have access to the latest educational tools. That’s why you should always stay on top of educational trends. The first schools to adopt computers, for example, put their students at a distinct advantage and helped them develop skills that are now fundamental in modern society.
Also, education has changed drastically in the last few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though things are returning to normal, some teaching elements from the pandemic will remain. Naturally, nobody could have predicted the pandemic and how it would change schooling, but that isn’t the case with other trends.
Stay up to date with the latest educational research and news, network with colleagues around the country, and always be willing to experiment with new educational techniques. If you can predict the future of education and lean into it before anybody else, you can be the kind of leader that drives innovation instead of the type that is constantly playing catch-up.
Leadership roles in education are extremely demanding, and it takes a whole career’s worth of preparation to get there. However, if you take these important steps along the way, you will feel much better prepared when you eventually reach your professional goals.
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